Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tech Tip Tuesday - SafeAssign Part 3 - Reading the SafeAssign Report

In this final post in our series on SafeAssign we will talk about how to interpret the SafeAssign Report.

Whether you do Part 1: Direct Submit or Part 2: SafeAssignments the report you get back will look the same.  If using SafeAssignments, the report both the student and instructor see are also both the same. 
*Remember in Direct Submit the students don't see anything.

Our previous posts that led up to this point were:
A SafeAssign Report provides a lot of detailed information about the sources used in the submitted paper.  Remember it is checked against computer driven databases not humans so there is still a decent amount of investigation and interpretation that needs to be done on the viewer's part.  

So let's first examine what the report looks like as a whole:
Click the image to enlarge.

You can see from the sample report there are three different parts to pay attention to in the SafeAssign Report: Paper Information, Suspected Sources and Paper Text.

Paper Information: This section lists details about the paper that was submitted, for example, author, title, percentage matching, what date and time it was submitted and the options to save, print, or give someone else a link to take a look at it.
  • Matching Percentage:  This indicates the percentage of the submitted paper that matches existing sources.  This is ONLY a guide and you should look in more detail at the paper.  For example, sometimes the report includes the references as a matching source, but in fact those were cited correctly and should not be considered plagiarism.
  • Sharing Options:  
  1. Save a report to disk allows you to view the report offline *Note: This may not work with some versions of Firefox.  
  2. Print Version allows you to do just that. 
  3. Direct link allows you to send the report to someone via a weblink but there are really two options you can select.  Click the envelope icon and it will open your default email or click the words 'direct link' and it will change the web address to an address that can be shared (you can then copy this address and paste it in an email to someone else).  The link is only valid for seven days, so if you need to review this information past the seven day period, you will need to click the Direct Link envelope again to get a new link.
Suspected Sources:  This is where you will find the list of sources that have text that matches text in the submitted paper.  You are also able to click on any of the links contained in the report to take you to that outside web source to continue your investigation.  The numbers associated with each source corresponds with the same number in the Paper Text section.  Clicking the magnifying glass at the end of a source it will highlight the suspected text in the paper for easier viewing.

Paper Text:  This area shows the submitted paper with the formatting stripped out.  All matching texts will have a corresponding number in the Suspected Sources section.  

What is very important to remember here is to not think that 'SafeAssign said it was plagiarized so it must be so!'  Remember SafeAssign is a tool to help you and your student decide.  Frequently SafeAssign will pick up common phrases and a suspected source.

The other thing to remember here is to click on the suspected phrases in the paper text section.  This won't link you to the source like the suspected sources section will.  Instead it provides you with MORE information, including another percentage matching specifically for that source.

Click to image to enlarge

You can see from the image above that when the selected text is clicked it is not a 100% match AND it is a common phrase, probably not plagiarized.

How SafeAssign Matching Percentages are Computed
Sentence matching scores indicate the probability that two phrases have the same meaning and potentially the same source.  

For example, a score of 74%, as in the example above, indicates that there is a 74% probability that these two phrases are the same and a 26% chance probability that they are similar by chance.

I hope the series on SafeAssign helps clear up any confusion, or gives you another great tool to add to your teaching arsenal.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tech Tip Tuesday - SafeAssign Part 2 - SafeAssignments

To continue our series on SafeAssign...we will talk this week about SafeAssignments.

Last week we talked about Direct Submit - which is where instructors can submit papers or groups of papers to SafeAssign for plagiarism checking or just to submit them to the database.  Students do not see a SafeAssign report this way, only instructors do.  Last week's post can be found here.

The other option for submitting items to SafeAssign is by setting up SafeAssignments within your Blackboard course and let the students submit their own work for plagiarism checking.  Each different writing assignment what you wish to use SafeAssign for needs it's own SafeAssignment.

Direct Submit and SafeAssignments are generally not BOTH done, you choose one or the other.

SafeAssignment Pros:
  • Students submit the paper themselves
  • Both students and instructors see the report to make it a learning experience.
  • Becomes a gradable item in the grade book (or just make it worth zero, complete/incomplete)
SafeAssignment Cons: 
  • Students opting out of submitting their paper to the Global Reference Database (their paper still get's checked but papers in the future will not be checked against theirs)
  • Students only get one chance to submit to SafeAssign unless the instructor manually gives them another chance.  Directions on how to give them another chance can be found here.
  • The only way students are able to use SafeAssign is if the course has SafeAssignment submission links set up in it.  If you do not use SafeAssignments then students have no access to use SafeAssign.
Many instructors like to set up SafeAssignments within their course and use it as a learning tool.  Some instructors have students submit to SafeAssign first through the SafeAssignment link, make corrections if necessary BEFORE submitting their paper to the instructor for a grade.  

Other instructors like to have students submit their final paper through a SafeAssignment link as their final gradable paper and take the SafeAssign Report into consideration as part of the paper grade.

To set up a SafeAssignment and review SafeAssign Reports in your course follow this tutorial.

To see what a SafeAssignment looks like in student view click here.

Note: If you have a course that is copied out to you semester after semester and has SafeAssignments already set up in it, SafeAssign in your course needs to be SYNCED every time you get your new course or it will not work.  Directions on how to do that can be found here.

Next Week: Part 3 - Reading and Interpreting A SafeAssign Report

Monday, November 11, 2013

Tech Tip Tuesday - SafeAssign Part 1 - Direct Submit

We have had many questions, all of a sudden, regarding SafeAssign, what it is and how to use it.

First to note, it is a computer generated plagiarism detection tool.  It should be viewed as a learning tool and not necessarily a punishment tool.

The report that submitting a paper will generate is up for interpretation and is not the end all be all.

You can read in more detail about SafeAssign and how reports are generated here.

There are two ways to use SafeAssign.
  1. Submitting a paper as an instructor that you suspect for plagiarism.
  2. Creating SafeAssignments within your modules where students submit their papers.
Part 1 in our series on SafeAssign is the Direct Submit.  

Direct Submit is what only instructors can do if they have a suspect paper.


  • Instructor control
  • Can submit one at a time or several at once to add to the Institutional Database
  • Papers uploaded through Direct Submit are only added to the Institutional Database - there is no option to add them to the Global Reference Database since students have to opt in on a paper by paper basis.
  • No Grade book Integration
  • It is not recommended that files be deleted from Direct Submit, as this will remove them from the Institutional Database.

    Directions of How to Direct Submit A Paper: (Video Tutorial on how to Direct Submit)
    1. From the control panel, click SafeAssign under Course Tools.
    2. Click the Direct Submit Link
    3. A list of folders and papers may appear.  This list includes papers already uploaded through Direct Submit on your account.
    4. Click Submit Papers.
    5. Select Upload File and browse for the file.  You can also copy and paste a paper in the given box
    6. Other Options:
    • Submit as Draft: A SafeAssign report will be generated however the paper will not be added to the institutional database and will not be used to check other papers.
    • Skip Plagiarism Checking: Adds the papers to the Institutional Database without checking for content copied from other sources.  This is useful if the Instructor wants to upload papers from an earlier course to ensure that current students are not reusing work.

    • Papers with over 5000 sentences or that are more than 10 MB in size cannot be submitted.
    • If papers being submitted include images, the images must not exceed 2 MB or the submission may fail.
    Types of Files Formats Accepted:
    • Microsoft Word Document: .doc
    • Rich Text Format: .rtf
    • HTML: .htm or .html
    • Text: .txt
    • PDF: .pdf
    • Zip compressed: .ZIP used to upload multiple files
    Next Week: Part 2 - Creating SafeAssignments
    Following Week: Part 3 - Reading the SafeAssign Report

    Tuesday, November 5, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Introduction to Jing

    Many of you have asked what I use to make these video tutorials for you.

    There are many screen capture products out there but here we like to use a free product called Jing.

    Besides this blog post you can learn more about Jing on our Faculty Help page in Blackboard.

    Jing allows you to easily capture ANYTHING that is on your computer, whether it's a web page, Blackboard, document etc.  It is a great way to give visual tutorials to those that need a little extra help or to really provide more clear directions to something.

    The only limitation to Jing is the recording time per video is limited to 5 minutes.  Most people don't need more than that because it can become too long and boring.  If you do need more than that you can:
    • upgrade to the pay version of Jing called Snagit (use your edu powers and get it cheaper)
    • or chunk you video topic into smaller (less than 5 minutes) sections
    The other nice part of Jing is the ability to use another free TechSmith product called Screencast to share your videos with anyone just by giving them your link.

    In order to record your voice you do need a microphone built into your computer or an external one you can plug in to use.  I have one built into my computer but I find I get better voice quality (even though no one likes the sound of their own voice :) ) using an external one the plugs into a USB port.  I like my little 'American Bandstand' looking microphone I got off Amazon for around $30.  I am very fancy by propping it up on a Kleenex box. 

    My Fancy Office Setup